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Powerful Earthquake Rocks New Zealand: Thousands Stranded, Two Dead, Local Tsunami And The Latest Updates

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New Zealand was struck by a powerful earthquake in the wee hours of Monday with the aftershocks staying beyond Monday's morning hours.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the first quake hit the Southern Islands in the early hours of Monday, near Kaikoura, which is about 55 miles off northeast to Christchurch. The quake had an intensity of 7.8-on the Richter scale.

Though the casualties were restricted to two people, unlike the 2011 Christchurch quake that killed 185 people, heavy damage was reported. That included collapsed buildings, broken roads, bridges and huge landslides that cut off road connectivity between many places in addition to violent disturbances in the sea that had waves hitting an abnormal 8 feet high.

The earthquake jolted people from their sleep with many of them evacuated to the higher ground later.

Brandon Perez, a native of California, who was on a visit to New Zealand, said the quake shook his entire room then everyone quickly evacuated.

"It just kept going and going and wouldn't stop," he said.

"I've experienced earthquakes before, but once it got to the point where the entire room was shaking and things were falling down, I started to get a little worried."

Heavy Damage

Media reports also said a slip dam was caused by earthquakes in the Clarence River which later broke and sent out huge volumes of water downstream, forcing people to move to higher ground.

Prime Minister John Key, who toured the affected areas called the damage "horrendous."

Key expects the damage bill to be "a couple of billion dollars" with many months of work ahead.

Though a tsunami warning was issued, it was scaled down later even as tremors continued. The aftershocks were also felt in capital Wellington, 120 miles away where residents had been asked to stay indoors with ferries and trains canceled.

Kaikoura Town Isolated

The worst affected was Kaikoura town with a population of 2,000 people. The town has been completely cut off and there is no road and phone connectivity.

Stranded tourists, numbering around thousands, will be airlifted. It is likey that harsh weather warnings for the northern parts of Southern Island may hamper the rescue operations.

Regarding the cause of the quake, scientists are of the view it could be the result of two quakes happening in separate faults.

Facebook Post Goes Viral

Meanwhile, people are pointing to a Facebook post that predicted an earthquake coinciding with the Supermoon. It has gone viral now.

The FB post was by Nigel Antony Gray and his Nov. 6 post said:

"On November 14 and a couple of days either side of that date, watch for a major earthquake, and quite [possibly] in the South Pacific area."

Pointing to the rising gravitational pull of the "super moon" Gray warned that Nov. 14 will have the moon coming closer to Earth in this century.

However, his warning was downplayed by earthquake expert Mark Quigley from the University of Melbourne who said tidal deformations due to the movements of the Sun and Moon might trigger earthquakes in some circumstances.

However, predicting the specific time, magnitude and location of a large earthquake merely on the basis of tidal stresses will be impossible.

Photo: Martin Luff | Flickr 

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